Snapdragon Stadium, home of San Diego Wave FC

On Wednesday 3 July, videographer and photographer Brittany Alvarado came forward with allegations of mistreatment by her former employer, the San Diego Wave Fútbol Club.

In her statement, she described how the club allegedly discriminated against employees, disregarded their wellbeing and mental health struggles, and allowed an abusive environment to flourish.

Alvarado wrote that for her and her colleagues, “the treatment we endured under club President Jill Ellis has been nothing short of life-altering and devastating to our mental health.”

She called for Ellis, who has served as the Wave’s President since the club’s founding in 2021, to be removed from both the Wave and the NWSL.

Other former staff members have also come forward with similar allegations. 

Bernadette O’Donnell, former Senior Communications Manager of the Wave, posted a statement about her mental health struggles while working for the club. She described how she had “no hope for [her] life” and how, after discussing her mental health issues with her boss, she was allegedly put on forced leave and terminated from her job three days later.

Photographer Jenny Huang made a statement with similar allegations. She posted online that during her time working for the Wave, she “was placed on suicide watch” and “begged for help while [her] mental health declined rapidly, but was pressured to resign instead.”

The San Diego Wave released a statement on 3 July addressing Alvarado’s allegations, which it described as “a social media post by a former employee that contains inaccurate and defamatory statements.” The statement read: “The claims made therein are categorically false, including the ones directed at our President Jill Ellis.”

The Wave stated they would “pursue all legal avenues available to appropriately address this matter.”

The NWSL has a long history of covering up abuse. Allegations first came to light in a 2021 article in The Athletic that described the experiences of players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim, and their years of abuse by former coach Paul Riley.

The Yates Report, released in 2022 after a long investigation, described the many abuses of power by Riley and fellow former coaches Rory Dames and Christy Holly, as well as the pattern of cover up, neglect, and lack of player protections by the NWSL and various clubs.

The NWSL said in a statement to ESPN: “The safety, health, and well-being of everyone associated with our league is our highest priority. We take seriously any and every report of potential misconduct, hire qualified independent investigators to review those allegations thoroughly, and act when allegations are supported by the facts uncovered. We have mandated corrective action in every instance where reports have been corroborated, up to and including the removal of individuals who do not live up to our values and standards”

In her statement, Alvarado indicated that she does not believe the league has properly addressed the Yates Report and implemented its recommendations.

Alvarado wrote: “Every day of inaction further validates the dangerous illusion that the NWSL has properly addressed the pervasive issue of abusive leadership.”

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